Whilst rack servers deliver impressive levels of processing power in a relatively small amount of floor space the latest blade servers take this density to new heights with the System 300ex capable of cramming no less than 336 Pentium III processors into an industry standard rack enclosure. RLX Technologies specialises in blade server development and proudly claims it was first company to market back in May 2001.

It sees the blade server as the answer to spiralling support costs as moving servers into a single rack-based environment will reduce the need for on-site management. The 300ex is one of three chassis offered by RLX and can accommodate up to 24 server blades. Unlike the products currently offered by Dell’s PowerEdge 1655MC and the Fujitsu Siemens BX300, the blades only support a single processor and are not as comprehensively constructed as they aren’t encased in a protective shell.

Software RAID
The chassis accepts three types of blades and came equipped for review with four 1200i cards each fitted with a Pentium III 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of PC2100 memory and a single 20GB 2.5in. hard disk. There’s room for a second drive but, unlike Dell and Fujitsu Siemens, mirrored RAID arrays can only be implemented in software as an integrated hardware RAID controller chip isn’t part of the package.

Furthermore, RLX opted to fit cooling fans to the 1200i heatsink and had to raise the memory socket out from the board to accommodate the extra height so each blade requires two chassis slots. To realize the full density you’ll have to use the 1000t or 800i blade versions fitted with 1GHz Crusoe or Pentium III 800MHz processors.

Each card comes with a pair of integrated 10/100BaseTX ports for general network connection and a third is used purely for remote management access. There’s also an RJ-45 COM port at the front of each card which provides limited local access. The blade chassis itself is extremely well built and comes complete with a pair of hot-swap power supplies easily removed from the rear. A passive backplane delivers both network connections and power to each blade and uses four pass-through cards terminated with RJ-21 ports.

The network connection is inelegant as four bulky cables each terminated with twelve RJ-45 plugs are used to connect the chassis to a network switch. To reduce cable related clutter RLX also offers optional switch cards each terminated in a pair of 1000BaseT Gigabit Ethernet ports. The third management network port on each blade is linked up by an internal Layer 2 switch which consolidates them together and presents three external 10/100BaseTX ports to the outside world. The Series 300ex is one of few products that doesn’t offer a KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switch for local access.

From our experience a local KVM connection is always useful as a last resort should remote management fail for any reason. Access to the blades is via a web browser and this is facilitated by the RLX Control Tower application which is always installed on the blade located in slot one which on the review system was an 800i blade equipped with 1GB of memory and a pair of 20GB 2.5in. hard disks. Multiple chassis can be managed with one blade as two RJ-12 ports on the management switch are used to daisy-chain the chassis together.

For remotely controlling Windows Server blades, RLX recommends the Terminal Services client which is easy enough to install and use. General management, software deployment and image capture are looked after from the browser interface which is well designed and easy to use. You can monitor hardware operations along with hard disk space and memory utilisation while extensive alerting keeps you informed of problems by email. From the Provision tab you can easily create tasks for capturing OS images to the Control Tower blade and deploying these to multiple systems simultaneously.

Consider your options

Overall, RLX is offering an interesting proposition for maximizing floor space. Remote management options are extensive and the system looks good value but we would recommend checking out the competition first as although management tools are on a par with RLX, HP’s BL e-Class offers the best build quality while Fujitsu Siemens delivers unbeatable processing density and greater fault tolerance.

OUR VERDICT

Overall, RLX is offering an interesting proposition for maximizing floor space. Remote management options are extensive and the system looks good value but we would recommend checking out the competition first as although management tools are on a par with RLX, HP’s BL e-Class offers the best build quality while Fujitsu Siemens delivers unbeatable processing density and greater fault tolerance.